Witness in Gareth Hutch murder trial being ‘protected’ by gardaí

Court has heard that Mary McDonnell’s flat was used ‘as a base’ before fatal shooting

Gareth Hutch (36) was shot dead as he was getting into his car outside Avondale House flats on North Cumberland Street in Dublin on May 24th, 2016. Photograph: The Irish Times

Gareth Hutch (36) was shot dead as he was getting into his car outside Avondale House flats on North Cumberland Street in Dublin on May 24th, 2016. Photograph: The Irish Times

 

The State has spent €40,000 to provide a safe place to live for a protected witness and her family in the Gareth Hutch murder trial, the Special Criminal Court has heard.

A family liaison officer also gave evidence that this State witness did not wish to join the Witness Security Programme because a family member did not want to change their name.

Earlier, the Special Criminal Court heard that Mary McDonnell and her family are not in the programme but they are being “protected” and “managed at a local district level”.

They are living in “accommodation that is not five-star” but is suitable for their protection and safety, the nonjury, three-judge court heard.

Ms McDonnell has been given immunity from prosecution, the court previously heard.

Mr Hutch (36), nephew of Gerry “The Monk” Hutch, was shot dead as he was getting in to his car outside Avondale House flats on Cumberland Street North in Dublin on the morning of May 24th, 2016.

Thomas Fox (31), with an address at Rutland Court, Dublin 1; Regina Keogh (41), from Avondale House, Cumberland Street North, Dublin 1; and Jonathan Keogh (32) of Gloucester Place, Dublin 1, have pleaded not guilty to murdering Mr Hutch.

Mr Fox has also denied unlawfully possessing a Makarov handgun on May 23rd, 2016.

Important evidence

In his opening speech, prosecution counsel Paul Burns SC said Ms McDonnell’s evidence would be “important” in this trial.

He said it was the State’s case that she had been encouraged by Regina Keogh and her brother Jonathan to allow him to use her flat “as a base” to wait for Mr Hutch prior to the attack.

Her kitchen window had a view into Mr Hutch’s flat.

The family liaison officer, who cannot be named, told the trial she was appointed to the McDonnell family on May 26th, 2016.

The court heard that, due to concerns about their safety, the family were relocated to a different location in October 2016. A member of the family had to be later moved to another location to ensure their safety.

The liaison officer told Seamus Clarke SC, defending Mr Fox, that she bought items she felt the family needed and logged these costs. “I made decisions based on relocation and basic needs,” she said. “When I first met Mary she literally had the shirt on her back. She had no toiletries, no extra clothes.”

Day-to-day arrangement

Sean Guerin SC, defending Mr Keogh, asked the officer if the current living arrangements were dependent on Ms McDonnell giving evidence, and if there had been any commitment on how long the accommodation would be provided. “No, it’s a day-to-day fluid situation to ensure their safety and protection. There’s been no promises, inducements or entitlements. Ms McDonnell is willingly giving evidence in this trial,” said the officer.

The court later heard that, if Ms McDonnell decided not to give evidence in this trial, she would still be entitled to receive accommodation.

The court also heard Ms McDonnell had significant physical and mental health issues prior to the killing and she continues to receive treatment.

The court previously heard Ms McDonnell had provided an initial statement to gardaí, who then obtained a warrant to search her flat.

She was later arrested on suspicion of murdering Mr Hutch and was ultimately charged with withholding information. That charge was subsequently withdrawn and she was provided with a letter of immunity.

The trial continues before Mr Justice Tony Hunt, presiding, sitting with Judge Patricia Ryan and Judge Michael Walsh.